NHIAA Football: Bulldogs flying high
9/24/12--Bedford quarterback James Caparell, center, gathers with receivers Mike Vailas, from left, Dylan York, Nick Vailas and Brian Collins before practice on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
BEDFORD — Seconds after each shotgun snap fires the football to his fingertips, Bedford quarterback James Caparell regularly sees his best friend run a double team-drawing deep route, two cousins fearlessly dodge defenders between the hash marks, and another childhood buddy stand nearby as the ultimate security blanket.
“They make my job easier,” the senior QB said of his primary pass-catchers that, together, give Division II-newcomer and No. 5 Bedford (3-1 overall, 2-1 Div. II) arguably the state's most balanced aerial attack.
Who's in Caparell's crew? There's senior Brian Collins, the vertical threat; junior Nick Vailas and sophomore Michael Vailas as the quick-out receivers; and senior check-down running back Dylan York.
Fans may recognize two of those surnames from 1970s Granite State football. Nick's father, Dr. James Vailas, played at Dartmouth. Michael's father, businessman and former Trinity High of Manchester head coach Nick Vailas, teamed at Plymouth State with Don York.
“That was way back in the day,” said Dylan, quick to emphasize “way” when talking about his dad.
Bedford's playmakers are fast making names for themselves, too.
Collins, the Vailases and York combined for 53 receptions and 887 receiving yards (11 touchdowns) through four games. They relish their roles in Bedford's spread offense, led by one of the best pure passers in the NHIAA ranks.
“We wouldn't be scoring touchdowns if it wasn't for him, so I think he deserves the credit,” Collins said of Caparell, who may eclipse 1,000 passing yards Saturday night when the fifth-year varsity Bulldogs visit Stellos Stadium for a 7 p.m. date with four-time defending champion Bishop Guertin of Nashua.
The passing game — as Caparell & Co. quickly pointed out during Monday's interview at the high school — is just one reason for Bedford's strong start in Division II.
Inexperienced when the season started, the offensive line is quickly building cohesion and largely providing quality protection. Linebacker David Cannone is leading an athletic and aggressive defense.
“The whole team has exceeded my expectations so far,” said Bedford head coach Kurt Hines, whose team this preseason lost 6-foot 7-inch, 275-pound left tackle Will McInerny, a scholarship talent who underwent surgery to both knees.
Bedford's thrilling 25-24 win last Friday at then-No. 4 Keene added to the excitement surrounding this team. The Bulldogs, after a 90-minute bus ride to the Elm City, erased three deficits, including a 12-point hole.
Caparell, standing tall in the pocket at 6 feet, 190 pounds, carved the title-contending Blackbirds for 331 yards. Collins (150 yards, TD), Nick Vailas (79 yards, TD), Michael Vailas (56 yards, TD) and York (38 yards) took turns making momentum-changing catches of the long-, intermediate- and short-range variety.
“Brian calls Nick and I 'decoys,'” said smiling Michael, whose older brothers, Jimmy and Andy, play defensive tackle and QB, respectively, for UNH head coach Sean McDonnell.
“We try to keep the defenders away from Brian as much as we can,” added Nick, jokingly taking credit for his teammate's 455 receiving yards and five TDs.
The cousins' comedic timing sent the quintet into hysterics. Far less funny is any discussion about Bedford's lone loss.
Averaging 38.7 points per win, the Bulldogs were nearly shut out Sept. 7 against Winnacunnet of Hampton. The Warriors, in a 13-6 Week 2 decision, exerted their will over the Bulldogs.
Winnacunnet head coach Ron Auffant in Tuesday's Union Leader called the Bulldogs, “kind of finesse,” before finishing the thought with, “but they were kind of tough kids, too.”
The players, perhaps taking cues from their head coach, said they believe Bedford has its Division II doubters.
“We've talked about that as a team. It just brings more motivation and intensity,” Caparell said. “We're trying to prove everyone wrong.”
An aerial assault Saturday at Stellos would show these Bulldogs mean business.
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Marc Thaler may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.